Husband and wife, Josh and Cat Heath, who have long been the operating force and co-directors behind the Open Halls Project have announced that they are shutting down. For those unfamiliar with the Open Halls Project, Josh Heath was on active duty in the US Army from 2006 to 2011 (deployed 2008-2009 In Operation Iraqi Freedom). He saw a need and decided to act upon it. He wanted to make it easier for military heathens to find heathens wherever they might be posted, both civilians and other active duty or veteran military heathens. That included penpals, care packages, connecting heathen clergy, kindreds and other believers. It evolved into making resources for military chaplains available. It had been an over decade fight by others (including the Heaths) to get pagan and heathen symbols approved for veteran tombstones. There was a national rally on the Washington mall in DC on July 4, 2007 towards this end. The pentagram was added in 2007, and the mjollnir added in 2013. (You can view the symbols at the official Veteran’s Affairs emblem database).
The Heaths decided that they wanted to tackle getting the religion added to the US Army. On June 16, 2011 they put the call out seeking US Army soldiers (past and present) who identify as asatru or heathen, as they were working with other organizations to get heathen/asatru added to the religious preference list for the US Army.
The Wild Hunt came to the June 26, 2022 protest of Stedfast, my not so friendly neighborhood cult that wants so many people to be dead. The Wild Hunt covered the effort of the group I am in No Hate in Texas. I knew ahead of time I was going to be interviewed, so I represented as an ally in my rainbow attire, my mjollnir (Thor’s Hammer) a symbol both of my heathen faith but also a symbol of protection against foes, and my gallehus horn replica pin. Because when we speak in ritual over the sacred horn or cup, our words fall into the well of wyrd, and our words have power to shift outcomes for good or for ill. So, such words need to embody both troth and frith. It was a quiet nod of the seriousness I take to my words in that moment, but also that speaking out even if not in ritual, is still a powerful and important thing. Hate is a virus, it spreads if people won’t take a stand against it.
That news story was released on July 3, 2022 by The Wild Hunt with both a print and a video component.
I had heard of the residential/mission schools (example: Carlisle Indian School), where Indigenous children were removed from their families & communities and sent to boarding schools to strip them of their language and culture. I never knew that the Church had done something similar to the children of conquered Saxon Heathens in the 9th Century.
Part of me sarcastically wants to say “a day late and a dollar short” but acknowledging that these schools were places of torture, abuse, and genocide, and taking public responsibility for that, tendering the apology is a good thing, potentially a healing thing. I probably shouldn’t be so sarcastic. Here’s the link.
Now, let’s see him apologize for the destruction, erasure, and genocide his Church caused to Pagans and Polytheists and their families, cultures, and communities across Europe from oh, I don’t know, the fifth through the fourteenth centuries? I’m not holding my breath. You see, we aren’t visible enough, there aren’t enough of us yet. The Church can still think it won.
I bring this up not to equate pain with pain or genocide with genocide but to point out that historically, Christian imperium did not start in the 15thcentury with Columbus. They practiced for a…
Our only (specific) surviving reference to the Goddess Sinthgunt comes from the Old High German Second Merseburg Incantation (also known as the “Horse Cure Charm”), which dates to around the 9th or 10th Century. The Merseburg charms are the only examples of pre-Christian Germanic belief recorded in the Germanic language.
And for anyone having difficulty reading the image the text is quoted below:
The Theodosian Code 16.10.11 tells us that on this day, February 24, in the year 391 CE, Roman Emperor Theodosius I decreed the closing of the temples and shrines. In the next few years there were further erosions to religious practice including the destruction of those holy sites, and the punishment of those polytheists who tried to worship their Gods.
Over 1600 years later and the Gods and Goddesses are still worshipped, new temples and shrines are being erected.
So on this day, let us post pictures of the new temples and shrines, post pictures of your altars to the Gods and Goddesses. Greet the Gods by name, lay offerings out to them, give them your prayers. Long may the Gods be hailed!
While the decree by Emperor Theodosius I obviously had a huge impact on ancient Roman polytheism, these restrictions also impacted other traditional polytheisms as well within the width and breadth of the Empire.
So yes, I think it’s a great idea to post my current altar in testament that the Gods are still hailed. In that spirit here is Weyland, Gerd, Freya, Eir, Hlin, Nott, Odin, Heimdall, Nerthus, Thor, Frigga & Baldr.
All too often among modern worshippers of the ancient gods of Germania and Scandinavia, they focus on rites like blot (or the modern alternative faining), and traditions like sumble. But they tend to ignore other religious ritual customs we have ample evidence of in both historic textual accounts and archaeologic artifacts, especially including the religious processionals of yesteryear.
In the Norse myths, Jormungand is known to be the son of Loki and Angurboda. He takes the form of a giant serpent. Tossed into the ocean, he eventually grows so big he outgrows the water and encircles the world. He currently bites his tail, but during Ragnarok he is predicted to release his tail as calamity follows.
This, combined with the fact I spend lots of time in astronomy apps and observing our night skies, has made me wonder if he might just be meant to tie to the visible sight of the milky way in our night skies. Just as the earth we live on (Midgard) rotates daily, and then annually around our sun, our solar system in turn is in motion spinning around our galaxy of the milky way. Every star visible in the night sky is an object that resides within our galaxy. Most of the objects in our spiral galaxy appear like a disc in what is often referred to as the galactic plane.
Something came to my attention these last few days, and I cannot be silent.
Some of you may know the pseudonym Swain Wodening, and others of you may not. He joined the Troth back in the late 1980s, then joined the Winland Rice (a Theodish group) in the early 90s, splintered from that to form Angelseaxisce Ealdriht in the mid 1990s (with Winifred Hodge who in her own right had been quite influential in her time). The Ealdriht would eventually be re-structured and would lead to the founding of Miercinga Theod. So in the 90s and 00s, he was an influential leader and author, especially in the areas of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry and Theodism. His books were well known, and he was on a range of mailing lists and message boards (social media wasn’t really much of a thing yet) within the religious community at large. (I may be a hair off on some of this timing, and I may be missing some nuance of the Theodish structural changes. Regardless this conveys a sense of his place at one time within the community).
Swain happened to live in my general area. He was part of the core members of the local White Sage Kindred, which I would join. White Sage Kindred was not a Theodish group. Some members were also members of a Theod, but most members and those who came to worship were just local heathens. For years I was present at nearly every religious gathering of the Kindred. So I spent quite a bit of time around him in the presence of the rest of the kindred. I learned pysanky from his wife (of the time). I would eventually take his ex-stepson to my work as part of career day. I took a vacation day so I could help a kindred member get to and from an outpatient surgical procedure. So when I say the man is an oathbreaker, nithling, and predator please understand I mean every word of it and the statement comes based out of fact and direct interaction, not rumor-mongering.
I was at a heathen gathering where many Theods and a few others had gathered in Mexia, Texas for a weekend of heathen fellowship. I was in my early 20s and still at university. He was (I think) around 40. I had left the mess hall after dinner to go back to the shared communal bunkhouse cabins to take my medicine before the forthcoming ritual. Everyone else was still at the mess hall (cleaning up from dinner, prepping for the ritual, and/or drinking & socializing). So I was alone as I went through my bag to get my medicine. Suddenly he was there. He had me cornered, and was blocking the exit. He preceded to make advances trying to get me to touch him. Some doubters may say oh it was innocent, or oh you misunderstood things. No, I really didn’t misunderstand the circumstance I had found myself in.
My way was quite intentionally blocked as he stood in the doorway. His hips thrust out to me, as he was trying to get me to feel the fabric of his ritual garb near his crotch. I recall being very much stunned, and shocked. While my brain started to try to figure a way out of the situation. Someone else came in, and I used the distraction to exit that situation as quickly as I could. Informing his spouse when I could get her alone later was one of the most awkward conversations I ever had to initiate. (She would divorce him). And for any idiot that would think oh you must have been dressed provocatively or somehow led him on, no I wasn’t and no I hadn’t. (And shame on those of you who would even think it).
I will (thankfully) never know what would have happened. But categorically it was wrong. (1) He was married, (2) it was unsolicited, and most important of all, (3) it was deplorable behavior for any man, but especially an authority figure. Despite the fear and disgust of the moment, it is nothing compared to some of the far worse things that happened to others.
I have received in confidence knowledge of other reprehensible actions and egregious offenses committed by Swain. These accounts are not mine to share, the story of those persons who suffered pain and abuse at his hands belongs to those victims. They should have the agency of choice to maintain their privacy, or the choice to share their testimony publicly. But I witnessed the very real physical aftereffects of the trauma some of them endured with my own two eyes, nor was I the only one to see it. Even all these years later, I still pray for the victims continued healing, that they may thrive. I also know a few select figures in the community at the time were made aware of some of his worst actions. To protect privacy of those who had been traumatized, certain things weren’t said publicly to the community at large. But there was very much a reason why he seemingly disappears from the community. Behind the scenes the leaders that knew of his ill deeds had begun to force him out at various points throughout the community (and yes that included White Sage Kindred too). He also self-confessed to certain aspects of his foul horrific misdeeds (in a pathetic attempt to victim blame) at his since deleted personal blog.
At some point afterwards he decides to not just leave the religion, but he decides to denounce the Gods, becomes Christian and writes about it under his birth name, Berry Canote. The description of the book, Letting Go to Live with Christ states: “Saddled with a religion that lacked compassion, author Berry Lee Canote finds himself returning to the religion of his childhood.” Sorry, not sorry. No one should have compassion for abusive men and predators. His brother (who published under the pseudonym Eric Wodening) wrote the book “We are Our Deeds” so I find it quite ironic that Berry/Swain has shown us exactly who he is by his deeds: a nithling.
So what prompted this distasteful trip down memory lane? He has, under his birth name, joined some Asatru and Heathenry groups on Facebook (and it would not surprise me if he’s found other groups to join as well elsewhere) in the last few days. For the moment he appears to be lurking like the cockroach he is, but this indicates to me that he may be returning to our religion. While he might personally want to return to the gods, that’s a discussion between him and the gods. But he should never, ever, ever be in a position of any authority or mentorship in our religious community ever again. Because no one who has publicly denounced the gods has the right to be in a position of religious leadership, but just as importantly because he has proven himself abusive.
I have publicly held my tongue for many years because I didn’t want to burden the innocent victims who might be re-traumatized by the triggering of old wounds by my words, especially when he was gone from our community. My story is so slight a thing in comparison to the much greater harm endured by those other victims. But I also won’t let that nithling come back into our community without speaking out either.
I swear upon the Gods and my ancestors that every word spoken/written here is true.
I want to also add, don’t fall into the trap of becoming a lore thumper (something I see a lot of with people converting to this belief way after years in Protestantism). Because our Gods are not fictional characters, they don’t exist merely within the confines of a book trapped between the front and back covers. You either believe they are real and still active forces with agency, or you don’t. And if you don’t, then this clearly isn’t the religious pathway for you.
Every religion and culture has an iconography which is uniquely it’s own, and the Northern Tradition is no different. Common symbols found in conjunction with this religion are the Valknut, Mjolnir, Irminsul, magical staves (known as a galderstav, such as the Ægishjálmur & Vegvisir), Sunwheels (including solar crosses and the misappropriated swastika), etc. But what do they mean?